Friday, April 26, 2019

Why I Really Don’t Want To Ever Fly On A Boeing 737 Max 8

I hate trying to be safe.

I have posted to this blog numerous times about how I feel about “being safe”.

I think that being safe is tantamount to being dead.

The mental state of a safe being is similar to a deer in the headlights.

That is a state of existence I find to be really unattractive.

But being stupid is something the avoidance of which I DO endorse.

My understanding of the ongoing Boeing 737 debacle is that, to provide an apparently new plane quickly and economically to the airlines of the world, a plane that needed to be better, cheaper to fly and requiring no pilot training investment, Boeing did the obvious: they hung newer, bigger, more powerful and – I guess – more economical engines on a tried and true airframe, the 737, which has been in production since 1967 or thereabouts.

There being an enormous amount of sunk costs in that old an airframe, the Max 8 looked to be the cash cow of ever existing cash cows – probably exceeding the IBM Selectric typewriter.

The only problem with the idea has been that the 1967 airframe decked out with 2015 engines presented an anomalous silhouette to the slipstream.

All the implications of this remain unknown.

There have been only two data points so far.

Those data points are what we used to call fatal crashes.

But one additional data point that does seem to be documented is that when these new software-craft are in a steep climb and are using maximum engine throttle (we often refer to that condition as “takeoff”) the software puts the plane in a nose down attitude.

That, of course, if allowed to persist, would result in what the FAA has described as “risk of impact with terrain”.

It turns out that Boeing had realized at the outset that that was the problem of the old airframe with the new engines in the slipstream.

“No problem” said the Boeing slipstream factotums; “we will analyze the slipstream with sensors and feed that analysis to some software in real time and, voila, we will have a modern aircraft in the slipstream; there will be no ‘risk of impact with terrain’”.

Something about that didn’t work.

And I am really disinterested in being a part of the data gathering enterprise necessary to find out if you can really fly a software-assisted pretend airplane with any large scale likelihood of not doing what two of them have already done: going inexorably nose down and having “risk of impact with terrain”.

A few hundred test flights – multiple tens of thousands of passenger bearing flights being expected of any aircraft – don’t constitute any assurance that the software or the sensors really work right.

So I would have to call the Boeing 737 Max 8 (and 9) the pretend aircraft for the people who worry about being safe but don’t mind being stupid.

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